Highlands and Islands Labour MSP David Stewart took the fight to continue the Highlands and Islands exemption to Air Departure Tax to Nicola Sturgeon today.
In Holyrood, he raised the issue at First Minister’s Questions, asking what recent discussions had the Scottish Government had with the European Commission on the tax.
Mr Stewart went on: “The First Minister will be well aware of the calls from some quarters of the aviation industry south of the Highland line to kill off the Highlands & Islands exemption, with potentially damaging consequences for businesses and communities across the region.
“Can the First Minister give Parliament an absolute assurance today that she will resist these misguided demands, and protect the interests of the Highlands and Islands by preserving this vitally important exemption.”
Ms Sturgeon replied that the Government wanted to protect the existing exemption from the tax and had written to the UK Government asking them to notify the exemption for approval to the European Commission, had on-going discussions on the issue, as well as looking at a range of different options to try to solve the problem.
She said actions to date demonstrated that the Scottish Government was absolutely determined to protect the Highlands and Islands exemption.
“I certainly would not support anybody who wanted to kill off that exemption,” she added.
Afterwards, Mr Stewart welcomed the First Minister’s positive reply and stressed that the current exemption for passengers flying from Highlands and Islands airports, meant up to a 16% reduction on some flights to the UK, Europe and beyond.
“This is an extremely important exemption for the region, also making regional routes more viable and sustainable.
“To progress this the Scottish Government needs to have further talks with the UK Government and with the European Commission as a matter of urgency.
“I will continue to stand up for the Highlands and Islands on this one.”